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Our Trial of a Xiaomi Forum

Our Trial of a Xiaomi Forum

XDA was originally a forum for the discussion of one particular model of HTC smartphone, more commonly known as the O2 XDA. Over time, more and more HTC devices were added, until XDA was the go-to place for Windows Mobile devices of all kinds. Eventually, a handful of non-HTC Windows Mobile devices were added. The turning point was the introduction of Android, and the plethora of devices which followed, and bring us to the XDA we know today.

Part of the process behind the scenes at XDA is gauging community interest, and identifying the direction in which users want the site to go. For a while, there have been regular user requests for the addition of Xiaomi devices to XDA. And we’ve chosen not to add them, for many well documented reasons regarding GPL compliance.

At XDA, we are strong supporters of the GPL, and manufacturer compliance with the GPL has been something featured on past occasions. Despite this, however, there has been ever-growing interest in Xiaomi devices on XDA.

A couple of weeks ago, some revelations started to surface in the media, suggesting that Xiaomi devices were “phoning home” to the company’s servers in China, uploading user data. The allegations were that these were the miCloud features of the product, which were being invoked even without the user enabling the feature. This was quickly backed up with packet captures from a user of the device. These allegations were then confirmed by well-known security company, F-Secure, on their own blog, where they verified that contacts and received SMS messages were forwarded to Xiaomi servers, along with the device IMEI and phone number.

Yesterday, Hugo Barra posted a defense of Xiaomi’s privacy policies which, besides from defending the status quo, makes a small concession in that the cloud messaging features will be able to be disabled, and will not be enabled on new devices by default.

In light of revelations such as these, however, we know that many XDA users are concerned by privacy and security, and feel that a time has been reached where the good the XDA community can do (in providing a platform for the discussion and dissemination of topics such as these) could benefit users of these devices. Such forums would open up opportunities for users to do what XDA users do best, in improving the device, and removing privacy-compromising features.

The introduction of a Xiaomi forum is a trial, and we’ll be reviewing how effective the forums are – without kernel sources being made available, the device doesn’t comply with the GPL, and this poses a significant limitation to what developers on XDA can achieve. Perhaps users will take this as an opportunity to increase pressure on Xiaomi to comply with their legal obligations and release sources. Only time shall tell, but we welcome you to join in the discussion in the Xiaomi Mi 3 forums.

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